Category: Earthworks & Earth Resources

The Benefits of Creating Wetlands on Your Farm

Wetlands are some of the most important ecosystems on our planet harboring some of the highest rates of biodiversity in the world. They are fundamental for purifying the water we use and also for creating habitat for thousands of threatened species. Unfortunately, wetlands often get in the way of industrial development which has an unhealthy love affair with cement. For that reason, wetlands are often drained to make way for […]

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Check Dams and the Promise of Renewing Groundwater Springs

When my family and I moved onto our farm a couple of years ago, the small creek that ran through the bottom part of our land had been essentially abandoned for several decades. While we could hear the creek, it was all but impossible to make our way down to where the water actually ran due to a mess of vines, thorns, and thick underbrush. An invasive vine (similar to […]

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8 Tips for Starting your Tropical Homestead

You’ve just purchased your dream property in tropical Costa Rica. You want to grow your own food. You are anxious to get to work now, have bought some plants from a nursery you randomly drove by, and have a shovel in hand, but where to start? Most of our clients fall on either side of a spectrum of project implementation. Either they experience paralysis by analysis, overthinking every step, their […]

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Health Benefits of Natural Earthen Construction

Somehow or another, the modern day, industrial world in which we live convinced us that dirt is unclean, impure, and well…. dirty. We worry when we see our children headed for a mud puddle, we agonize when a mud footprint makes its way onto our kitchen floor, and we´ll gladly walk an extra couple strides on the sidewalk to avoid even a step or two through the dirt. The idea […]

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Storing Water in the Landscape: A Swales and Ponds Primer

Rain is one of the leading causes of soil erosion. The problem isn’t with rain itself, but rather with bad land management practices and farming practices that aren’t designed to take advantage of rainfall in a holistic manner. The best place to store water is in the landscape itself, and through the process of design, water can be effectively stored in the landscape for increased fertility, longer growing season, and […]

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The Transition from Swales to On Contour Hedges

One of permaculture´s most famed and acknowledged contributions to sustainable land management and ecologically sound agricultural practices are swales. From Australia to Finland to South Africa, thousands of permaculture practitioners from around the world have taken their laser levels, A-frame levels, and Bunyip water levels to map out the contour lines across the landscape that holds them. Once stakes have been placed across the contour lines across the land, either […]

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Closed-Loop Farming in Costa Rica

I woke up to the sound and smell of a chicken coop. It was a mild March morning in La Argentina, a small town on Costa Rica’s southeastern edge. I was staying on a small-scale, family farm of the gracious Señora Ana. Her farm, as with many of her neighbor’s, incorporates animal, vegetable, and fish production into a closed-loop system. Closed-loop farming is, in essence, the most primitive form of […]

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Why We Use Swales and How to Do It Appropriately

A swale is one of those permaculture terms that probably gets thrown around to readily (or inaccurately) and perhaps implemented irresponsibly. Only a few years into my permaculture career, I have certainly been guilty of this, and I have distinct memories of mistakes I made with regards to both attempting to construct swales and putting them in the wrong place. In my defense, and perhaps to my own credit, I […]

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The Low-Down on Double-Dig Gardens

The Low-Down on Double-Dig Gardens

I hear and read many people who are completely against double-digging, and to state this upfront, for those most part, I’m in complete agreement with their assessment. I am a believer in no-dig gardens. Even more so, I think being patient with our soil situations—planting what will grow and piling organic matter atop the soil to replenish the nutrient cycle—works. I’ve seen it work in dry situations, in clay situations, […]

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Hugel Swales May be a Bad Idea

Ok, so this conversation has been addressed in the correct way and was explained by Jack Spirko at https://permaculturenews.org/2015/11/06/dont-try-building-hugel-swales-this-is-a-very-and-i-mean-very-bad-idea/. This very bad idea, Hugel-swales on contour, should not be done!!!!! We can however accomplish the morph on small scale as explained by Jack Spirko, but not in the true “this is how to build a swale” and “this is how to build a Hugel.” Again, do not do what I […]

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Creating the Mainframe Design for our Farm

This article is about how we figured out our mainframe design for roads, swales and ponds/dams. The pictures that show how those were installed you can see in an earlier article here. Because the terrain of our farm was totally overgrown and the topography is a bit complicated, it took us two years to finalize this mainframe design. This process has taught us a few good lessons which I will […]

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Evolutions on Mr. Phiri’s Water-Harvesting Plantation, 1995–2016

Earlier this year I had the opportunity to return to Zimbabwe and to the farm of some of my prime water-harvesting mentors, Mr. Zephaniah Phiri Maseko and his family. While in the region, I also visited the farms of many other innovative farmers who are enhancing their soils’ hydrology and fertility by cooperating with natural systems. In this blog entry, and some to follow, I will share some of the […]

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